Saturday, February 09, 2008

Chronic Electricity Blackouts in South Africa

South Africa is suffering from chronic blackouts and brownouts due to inadequate supply and conflicts between the central government and the country's only real utility company, Eskom. This conflict probably involves post apartheid adjustments, competition for power industry control and incalcitrance on both sides.

South Africa needs an accelerated power plant construction program and increased privatization of the utility industry. The electricity shortages are being attributed to a post-apartheid economic boom. Unfortunately, government prescribed conservation and efficiency programs will not work in providing adequate electricity in a rapidly expanding economy.

Due to the South African government's attempted privatization of Eskom in the late 1990s, Eskom's budget requests to build new stations were denied. Thabo Mbeki admitted in December 2007 that this was an error, and it is now adversely affecting the South African economy. Eskom has introduced load shedding to the country where electricity is cut in different areas on a daily basis based on a rotating schedule. There is also criticism that Eskom exports electricity to neighbouring African states when they don't have the capacity to meet South Africa's demand. The crucial mining industry was forced to shut down for several days at the beginning of 2008 when Eskom warned that it could not guarantee enough power for the service elevators that move miners in and out of the deep shafts. (Wikipedia) (Wash Post)

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